Although store-window design is in itself a genre, an emphasis on selling merchandise often dominates the visual theme. To celebrate the Jewish New Year at The Jewish Museum in New York, the curator wanted to use the museum’s windows as a means to celebrate (and, in a way, advertise, the Jewish New Year). She requested something playful, but reflective of the educational mission of the museum and respectful of the building’s historic façade.
Cooper Joseph’s design solution celebrates the apple. On Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year, it is customary for families and friends to gather together for festive meals, where a popular custom is eating apples—a fall fruit whose abundance coincides with the holiday—dipped in honey to symbolize a sweet new year.
In Jewish mysticism, the apple represents the Shekhinah, the feminine aspect of God. During Rosh Hashanah, some Jews believe that the Shekhinah watches us and evaluates our behavior during the past year. Eating honey with apples represents our hope that the Shekhinah will judge us kindly and look on us with sweetness.
To reflect the significance and layered story behind the apple, the design team created an infinity box concept that leverages the reflection created in the glass of four existing vitrine windows. The team first created a series of mockups to adjust light levels during day and night, and experimented with various ways to mount Styrofoam apples. They constructed wood boxes and lined them with mirrored acrylic, then hung the apples from black thread inside the boxes. Some apples are glued to the outside of the glass.
The museum faces Central Park and a row of street trees along the sidewalk. In the daytime, the vitrine glass reflects the foliage of the trees so the apples look like they are hanging on the street trees. By night, the trees disappear and the glass acts as a mirror from the inside, reflecting back and forth with the back panel of the box to show infinite numbers of apples fading into the distance in an abstract environment.
The “infinity” effect is well known and has been exploited historically, though less so in modern times. The team’s interest was in exploring how typical glass will act as a mirror when lit from “outside” and as transparent when lit from “inside.”
Construction materials included 125 Styrofoam apples, fiberboard, mirror acrylic, thread, and fluorescent lighting.
The exhibit consists of 4 windows 5ft tall and 2 inches deep
"Remember, an apple a day will keep you wondering, ‘How did they do that?'"
“A sense of joy and surprise came to me in the moment I realized that the apples are hanging on the reflection of the trees outside. A brilliant connection of the two distinct elements of the composition, the apples and the trees. They each exist in separate environments yet become one. Beautiful.”
Wendy Evans Joseph, Chris Cooper (principals in charge, designers)
The Jewish Museum